A wet beginning to Martinsville race day set in motion a rather unconventional start with the first few laps ticking away under caution while the dryers finished up on pit road. The drivers had been introduced while the cars were being put out. The time change put a crush on the start time to make sure the race rolled under the checkers with enough daylight for fans and drivers to finish the day.
It all went off in time, just barely, while the time between the green and the checkers delivered just a little bit more than the typical Martinsville mayhem.
Joey Logano had the pole and a target on his back from seven other drivers in the CHASE and one other with a grudge, real or imagined.
From the start it looked like Logano’s race to lose. There were some lead changes and some CHASE drivers put in the garage. Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski had laps lost with damage but Logano seemed to stay either up front or close enough to it to see his run continue.
Then there was Matt Kenseth. Kenseth was also in the wreck that put the #41 and the #2 in the garage. With the race and the checkers closing in the #20 and Kenseth were back out on the track. As Logano came around the #20 through turn one Kenseth tucked the nose under the #22 and both went straight as an arrow into the wall.
Logano’s day was done going from what looked like a win and a CHASE advance to the bottom of the grid. This also set up a finish that would put the grandstands in a frenzy.
With the #22 down, the race put the #24 of Jeff Gordon in position and the final restart played out with Jamie McMurray on the outside of the #24 and unable to nose out and ultimately tucking in behind Gordon. The fans were stomping the stands as the #24 rolled through the checkered flag for Gordon’s first win of the season and his ninth win at Martinsville. It also sets the #24 in place to race for a final championship at Homestead.
Joey Logano will need to win one of the two remaining Eliminator races to be in position at Homestead. He will be on a mission to do so. Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski, however, will be sharing that need so the push to be up front at Texas and Phoenix will be a CHASE battle with all on the line. Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick are currently on both sides of the bubble with Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. both 8 points behind Gordon.
It is Jeff Gordon’s last season. This year has been less than great for the #24 but Gordon and his team have managed to keep themselves in play and Martinsville may have given them the surge, late as it may be, to push to the end.
There is no doubt Gordon’s win came as a direct result of the feud between the #22 and the #20. Logano fans made it clear with a colorful chant from the stands during Gordon’s victory celebration while Gordon himself acknowledged them with fist pumps to the rhythm.
That little track in Martinsville has set another notch on the side of the grandfather clock that records the history making it one of the game changers for the sport.
For fans that saw the weather and stayed home… You missed a big one!